Ladies and Germs, this comes to you from my firehouse. Tristan Eley-Durbin is making his WTJ premiere with an post he sent to me about knee jerk reactions from the RIT perspective. Enjoy...
In my short time in the fire service, it seems to me that we have a mindset of "It's always worked, so why change what we do?". This mindset, in some way, shape, or form is in every firehouse in America. As unfortunate as it seems, the fire service, as a whole, has a knee jerk reaction to safety issues. It is not my intent to sit and "armchair quarterback" other departments and their practices. It is simply my gut reaction to reading reports regarding firefighter deaths. We should evaluate how we operate constantly, and make revisions as necessary to prevent tragedies.
I offer for example a department with a lack of RIT equipment. I am not speaking specifically of any incident that has happened. I personally know, and have worked for, departments that have no concept of RIT, never establish RIT, and have no RIT packs available to them. The department is small, and have had no injuries or LODDs. RIT, in this case, is defined as "going in and getting them out". No organized effort. No specialized training or equipment. Just a bunch of guys rushing in and trying to rescue one of our own. John Wayne-ing it, so to speak.
Now, I'm not trying to bore you, but here is some data according to a RIT study, compiled from hundreds of companies performing the same RIT drills. The study simulated a fire in a large commercial structure. The first due engine stretched a 150 ft attack line into the structure. Four members advanced the hose. Fire conditions worsened, and two firefighters escaped while two were trapped. Firefighter 1 was 40 feet off the end of the hoseline, was unconscious, and had his PASS device activated. Firefighter 2 was directly in contact with the hoseline, had radio contact, was able to move on his own power, and stated that he was running low on air and had lost contact with Firefighter 1. Both firefighters were within 150 feet of the exit and had a clear path. No tricks, no loops in the hose, no wire or stud boxes to navigate through. Sounds simple, right? On average, around 22 minutes was the time it took to locate, put on air, package and remove the downed firefighters. 12 members were needed to remove the downed firefighters from the structure.
Rambling a bit, lets bring it back in. How long would it take to remove these firefighters if there was no pre established RIT team? The study states that an established RIT team takes 2:30 to enter the building from the time of the mayday. What are the chances of survival of the firefighters if no RIT bags were on site? Would it take a casket riding solemnly in the back of a rig and a harsh NIOSH report for RIT bags to be placed on the rigs, and RIT training to be conducted? Possibly. Knee jerk. That is the absolute worst case scenario. It makes me shudder. Could a proactive member take this through the chain and get this changed? Depends on how hard the "It's always worked" philosophy is ingrained in the heads of the decision makers.
It wasn't my intention to write completely on RIT, but RIT is one task I feel is given without much thought. It's a punishment. Who wants to sit outside and watch everyone work? If activated, though, you become the sole lifeline for one of our own who is having the worst day of their life. Would you want a crew coming to get you who thinks of RIT as a punishment, or as a truly important function that must be executed with the same proficiency and skill of VES?
If the "It's always worked, why change it" attitude was followed all the time, we would be riding rigs with REAL horse power, using our mustaches to filter out smoke (Or for some of us, just look creepy), and using sprinkler systems consisting of water filled barrels with a dynamite activator (I actually learned something in college!).